Saturday, April 01, 2006

"'Cause they'll be rockin on Bandstand

In Philadelphia P.A."

Kids today! They don't know how it was. They don't know!

Back in my day, one week away from your usual online routine usually meant a bare hour or so to clear out the email box and delete the invites to those enticing online casinos, the charming solicitations from various and sundry ladies of alluring names -- I'm reminded here of the Tom Waits line in 9th and Hennepin: "All the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes" -- and that whole medicine show of various pharmacopeias of invigorating strength and vitality to add inches to your life. (Which were probably useful products to ingest before a virtual night on town at the Texas-Hold'Em online casino with the lovely French Crueller by your cyber-side.)

And now there's MySpace. 24 hours away from this little virtual social network, and you will return to a pile of friend requests, messages, event invites, and bulletin board readings that will make you wonder if the Luddites had the right idea all along.

How did this happen? How did a website that has all the aesthetic charm of Winston Smith's description of the Victory Cafe emerge in 2005 as one of the top ten most visited websites in the world?

Because as far as I can tell, MySpace only has two things: teenagers and rock-n-roll.

And nothing good ever came from that combination.

There are points to consider. The basic template style is fairly uninspired:

Trading ’spaces
Why your MySpace page isn’t nearly as cool as Pinback’s

So they just came out with this new thing that’s pretty awesome. The local bands are all about it—not just the cool ones, but all of ’em. It’s called MySpace. Heard of it? No? Oh, man, it’s all about that six degrees of separation shit and how the whole world’s connected through technology and the democratization of art and how our generation doesn’t need fucking radio or MTV or any of that shit to get our music out.

OK, while all of that is true (sorta) and, yes, MySpace is (kinda) mind blowing, we need to back up a minute.

First, MySpace was reportedly designed by super nerds who could have cured cancer if their dream hadn’t been bringing people (and stalkers) together online. So why are so many bands’ pages either really boring or look like a 9-year-old designed them on a Speak & Spell?

And if it’s all about individuality and creativity, then why do all these bands’ fans (read: mostly young women) look so alike (read: mostly slightly blurry camera-phone pics of young women with puckered lips slathered in a dozen tubes’ worth of cheap lip gloss)? Surely, there’s more to MySpace than this...

Possibly, MySpace has already sold out to The Man:

Skate Company Builds MySpace® Army to Promote their Store

"Our customers are a moving target" says Rick Davis, one of the company's owners. "They are extremely passionate and fiercely loyal. Skating is not a sport, it's a lifestyle. If you can win them over, they will go to end of the world for you."

So how do you win these kids loyalty? Davis says "Almost everyone underestimates them. These are intelligent, savvy kids. They have been exposed to the most extreme marketing techniques in the history of mankind since their birth. A 13-year old can smell a sales pitch coming from a mile away." So what is the trick? According to Davis, there's not one. "Just be sincere. You have to be truly sincere in what you do and say. Be absolutely consumed with delivering whatever is best for your customer. They know the difference. Try to fake it and they'll leave you cold."

Fueling this MySpace marketing concept is the age old snowball effect. On the news ticker that Roller Warehouse developed, each topic delivered contains the first 30 to 40 words of the article. Each topic is hyperlinked; clicking it will take you back to the company's original blog page where you can read the entire text. On the blog page, the option to add the news ticker to your own page appears. Thus, the cycle is repeated.

There's the legitimate concerns of parents at all this sudden connectivity between the children in the family and the world:

Parents beware: Teens using Web site to build social status

On the surface the idea is fine, but like most things it has become reflective of the worst of society. MySpace has been taken over by teens and young people ("tweens") who are putting up all manner of content about themselves on the sites. We're at a perfect storm here when it comes to issues like these.

First, kids now have access to digital cameras and can take photographs of themselves and their friends that never pass through the editors of my day, namely my parents and the photolab. That means MySpace is full of photographs of risque photos, to put it politely.

What the kids of today don't seem to understand is the Web is forever. On the practical side, that photo of you with your underwear on your head using a beer bong may be kinda funny to you today, but won't be all that amusing 10 years later at your Senate confirmation hearing or your job interview for law partner.

Man! It's that old principal's threat made real "This is going on your permanent record, young man!"

And there is the equally legitimate concern that anyone using the net extensively must acknowledge:

Internet 'Friends'

'The problem is that kids have this false sense of security online,' said Joseph Donahue, a State Police investigator who works in the Albany headquarters of the Computer Crime Unit's ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) Task Force.

'If they're not meeting people face-to-face, they feel like they're 8 feet tall and bulletproof. They feel nobody can bother them, but that's naïve and makes them much more vulnerable.'

What has raised the concern of law enforcement is Since it was launched three years ago, the Web site now counts more than 60 million members, and is growing daily. The majority of those congregating are teenage girls, according to Donahue.

The secret to its popularity is in its simplicity. With an e-mail account, users can join up and create their own personal pages, post photographs, movies, music and share diary-like commentary with the world.

More on all stories at the links.

I started looking for MySpace stories on the blurred line between Official and Unofficial music sites as the accidental result of becoming a 'friend' of two separate Boomtown Rats sites. The second one is more informative and professional looking. Also, they invited ME to be a friend, so I'm kinda hoping they are the Official one. I also believe that the role of MySpace in popular music will rival that of earlier technologies such as the jukebox, transistor radio, the FM broadcast frequency, and the 45 rpm single.

"Sweet Little Sixteen
She's just got to have
About half a million
Framed autographs
Her profile's filled with pictures
She gets 'em one by one
She gets so excited
Watch her look at her run..."

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